State Theatre

107 W. State Street,
Ithaca, NY 14850

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State TheatreĀ©..Ithaca New York

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Ithaca’s State Theatre first opened its doors on the evening of December 6, 1928 for a 6 o'clock showing of the movie “Show Girl”, starring Alice White. The organist was Harry Springer and admission was 50 cents. Originally not a theatre, the building had started out as a security garage and automobile showroom in 1915, but this business moved out in 1927.

The Berinstein family, owners of several Upstate NY theatres, bought the property and hired architect Victor Rigaumont to transform the structure into a “cinema palace and vaudeville hall”. This was done at a cost of about half-a-million dollars. A $26,000 Link organ was purchased from Binghamton. Original capacity has been described as 1,818 seats. Current capacity is 1,626.

The primary style is Collegiate Gothic, a popular building design seen on American college campuses roughly from about 1900 through the 1930’s. It was meant to emulate that seen at the English institutions of higher learning like Oxford or Cambridge. This plays out in the State Theatre’s auditorium with the addition of colorful heraldry, small shields, etc. Additional elements of Moorish and even Renaissance design create an intriguing mix of styles. Finally, the State Theatre was designed as an Atmospheric style theatre. The deep blue ceiling has twinkling lights scattered through painted constellations. Originally, a cloud machine added to the overall effect, perhaps one of watching the movie or performance under a dark summer sky in a castle courtyard.

After the decline of vaudeville in the 1930’s, the State Theatre operated primarily as a movie theatre. The balcony was divided off for a second cinema in 1976. Condemned in 1997 due to accumulated decay, the property was bought by the non-profit, Historic Ithaca organization in 1998. An official reopening was held December 5, 2001. Since then, the theatre has been used mainly for concerts and other live performances. It has been garnering more well-known acts and is once again becoming a popular venue in this lively, two-college town. Revenue helps cover operating costs and is funneled back into restoration when possible. The project has entered Phase II. A dollar-for-dollar matching grant of $150,000 has also been awarded to the project by the Save America’s Treasures (SAT) program. Currently, more than half the amount has been raised, with a deadline of July 2005.

SOURCES: primarily State Theatre program documents and the official website.

Contributed by Jeremy Beutel

Recent comments (view all 30 comments)

Patsy
Patsy on March 26, 2006 at 1:26 pm

TC: The photos posted on Sept. 9, 2005 that show the unrestored marquee are good, but I hope they have been restored by now as I plan to visit this theatre this spring and would like to see them in a restored condition!

Patsy
Patsy on April 10, 2006 at 3:26 pm

TC: Going to Ithaca tomorrow, April 11 to see this theatre so will report back here in a few days.

Patsy
Patsy on April 13, 2006 at 5:54 pm

The State Theatre is a very interesting architectural combination and should be seen to be appreciated. The theatre has its original organ though as yet to be restored. Thanks to Don Welch, head usher I was given a full tour from the projection room to the basement!

Patsy
Patsy on September 23, 2006 at 5:03 pm

Lost Memory: The ceiling photo is an excellent photo in that it captures the astronomy formations. My tour included having Mr. Welch take my husband to the organ chamber room where all of the sounds once originated from. The journey involved 2 sets of very steep stairs so I stayed behind while our digital took photos for me to see later.

Patsy
Patsy on September 30, 2007 at 2:09 am

Great to see this most recent photo as it shows needed work being done on the marquee!

deleted user
[Deleted] on May 8, 2008 at 2:49 pm

The State’s website is now at www.stateofithaca.com There is a good explanation of the Link organ in the “History and Restoration” section.

Patsy
Patsy on May 8, 2008 at 5:55 pm

MikeR: Great organ story..the kind we all love to read! Thanks!

deleted user
[Deleted] on May 9, 2008 at 6:09 pm

No problem. Hopefully they will get enough funds to complete the restoration of the organ -in addition to the theater. It’s one of the comparatively few Link organs left in existence (interestingly enough, one of the surviving Links is in a museum in Germany).

DonLewis
DonLewis on October 30, 2008 at 1:11 am

2008 views of another “cinema treasure”, the State in Ithaca. Here, here, here and here. Two enlarged views here and here.

LuisV
LuisV on August 21, 2012 at 11:23 pm

The State Theatre appears to be alive and well and beautiful in downtown Ithaca! I do wish they still showed periodic movies but they seem to do well as a live performance venue in this prosperous little town.

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